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HP plans to protect its Linux customers from the wrath of SCO by defending them in court at the company's own expense.

HP will indemnify users who purchase servers and workstations should they face a lawsuit from SCO and its leader Mr. Clean. HP is the first major sever vendor to stand up and protect its customer base on serious hardware. Sun Microsystems will indemnify users of its Linux desktop but not server customers. IBM and Dell have stayed silent on the matter.

The SCO saga continues but remains in a state of relative limbo. The company has called for Linux users to cough up a hefty per processing licensing fee to use the open source OS. Most Linux users have, of course, told SCO to shove off, which means everyone must wait for a host of lawsuits from SCO, IBM and Red Hat to pass before much is decided in this matter.

Utah is a beautiful state but it conjures up a strange breed of inhabitant as evidenced by SCO's reaction to HP's announcement.

"HP's actions this morning reaffirm the fact that enterprise end users running Linux are exposed to legal risks," SCO said in a statement. "Rather than deny the existence of substantial structural problems with Linux as many Open Source leaders have done, HP is acknowledging that issues exist and is attempting to be responsive to its customers' request for relief. HP’s actions are driving the Linux industry towards a licensing program. In other words, Linux is not free."

We didn't interpret HP's announcement in quite the same way. It seems HP doesn't want Linux momentum to be stopped by nervous enterprise customers who fear that using the OS may come back to haunt them. HP is basically saying, "Go ahead with your plans; we've got your back."

With HP proclaiming that midrange Unix is dead, the company needs a Nix replacement bad. It really cannot afford to have fears and jitters surrounding Linux at this point and time.

It seems doubtful that IBM will take a similar step given its ongoing litigation with SCO. And Dell will likely stick to its role on the sidelines of anything interesting, preferring to give Gates and Ballmer pats on the tush as they all chuckle.

It's amusing to see how far this mess has gone. There was a time not too long ago when HP and SCO were expressing their Unix unity and giving Sun's McNealy a hard time.

Now HP and Sun find themselves in a somewhat similar camp, offering up protection to Linux users against SCO's IP crusade. ®

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